Over the weekend, one of my college friends died. He was a young guy and would occasionally comment on my facebook wall when I was discussing politics. While he might have denied it, I claim him as the first person I deconverted away from Christianity. What I realized however is that much of the words we use to discuss death have a decidedly Christian ring to them.
When we say, “Rest In Peace” what are we really saying? The dead don’t really rest and they have no feeling of angst of inner peace either. We all know this and yet the phrase is still used even by atheists.
People don’t like to say that someone died, so they often say that they “passed away.” I guess this one isn’t so bad, but to me it also smacks of supernatural. Passing implies moving from one place to another and there is no place that the dead have passed away to.
In the case of my friend, he was “taken too early in life.” Taken where and by whom? All these phrases imply an afterlife, which almost certainly don’t exist.
Then of course, there are the obviously religious phrases which just beat us over the head; “He went home to God,” “God took him to a better place,” etc.
To me, I would like to say that I miss my friend and that he will be remembered. He isn’t in Heaven or Hell, he lives on in our memories. A fellow friend put it this way, “He was a bright light in the world and a deep thinker who thought about the issues of our time… It is not how long you live, but how you lived.” He will be missed.